In light of Daniel Alfredsson returning to captain the Ottawa Senators, a team he’s been an integral part of for 17 years now, we’ve decided to take a look at the top 10 captains in NHL history. Here is our list of the league’s greatest, most loyal leaders.
Raymond Bourque, Boston Bruins
While Hockey Hall of Fame defenceman Raymond Bourque won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001, his legacy will be one that is remembered as a member of the Boston Bruins.
Bourque was a Bruin for 21 seasons, 15 of which he spent as the team’s captain. Bourque was the leader for the Bruins in almost every single game he played with the team.
The Hall of Fame defenceman was a steadying presence on the blue line, helped contribute to the offence and made the Bruins one of the most consistent teams in the league by helping them qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs in almost every season he was there.
There is no doubt that when it comes to the Bruins, Bourque will always go down as the franchise’s best captain.
Scott Stevens, New Jersey Devils
Another hall of fame defenceman who was a terrific leader for his franchise was Scott Stevens.
While Stevens played for both the Washington Capitals and St. Louis Blues, it was in New Jersey that Stevens would leave his mark.
Stevens was the Devils’ team captain from 1992 through the end of his career in 2004. As team captain, he made the Devils’ one of the most consistent teams in hockey by leading them to Atlantic Division titles, Eastern Conference titles and more importantly, three Stanley Cups.
When a message needed to be delivered, it was always Stevens who gave it and answered the call for his hockey club:
Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators
When Daniel Alfredsson first came to the Ottawa Senators, he was a player that struggled to find offence on a consistent basis.
This all changed when Alfredsson was awarded the captaincy in 1999. Since that season, "Alfie" has not scored lower than 59 points and has led the Senators to three Northeast Division titles and to one Stanley Cup Final, which the team lost to the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.
With over 1,000 points and more than 1,000 games played in a Senators uniform, there is no doubt that Alfredsson will go down as the franchise’s best player.
Bobby Clarke, Philadelphia Flyers
While most Canadian hockey fans remember Bobby Clarke for what he did in the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union, Clarke should be more remembered as the best captain in Philadelphia Flyers’ franchise history.
Clarke was the Flyers’ team captain from 1973-79 and then from 1982-84. In that time, Clarke established himself as one of the most dedicated and hard working players not only on the Flyers, but in the whole league. He was also a player that played a lot of physical hockey and with a lot of grit.
Clarke led the Flyers to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and 75 when they were known as the Broadstreet Bullies. No. 16 also won three Hart Memorial Trophies as the league’s most valuable player, a Lester B. Pearson award and was named to eight All-Star teams.
Clarke will always be synonymous with the Flyers.
George Armstrong, Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs are an Original Six franchise that has had a lot of great team captains.
With that said, there is one that stands above the rest and that is George Armstrong. Armstrong was the Leafs’ longest-serving captain as he held that role from 1957 to 1969.
As team captain, Armstrong led the Leafs to three consecutive Stanley Cups from 1962-64 and also helped the team win the Cup again in 1967, which is the last time the Leafs won the Cup.
He may not have had the offensive talent that other Leafs’ captains such as Doug Gilmour or Mats Sundin did but he did something that those two cannot do and that was win a Cup with the Leafs.
Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche
Joe Sakic may have been soft-spoken but boy did he ever lead his hockey club, the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche.
Sakic was the captain of the Nordiques from 1992-95, when he helped the franchise get into the playoffs in both 1993 and 1995. However, it was in his time in Quebec that Sakic was criticized for not being able to bring the Nordiques to the next level.
This all changed when the franchise relocated to Colorado and became the Avalanche. As captain of the Avalanche, Sakic led the franchise to two Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001 and was also awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the league’s top player in the post-season.
Sakic will also go down as one of the classiest team captains as he did the following after being handed the team’s second Cup in franchise history:
Steve Yzerman, Detroit Red Wings
Much like the Maple Leafs, there are lots of players that were great team captains for the Detroit Red Wings.
However, there is one that will always be synonymous with the winged wheel and that is hall of famer Steve Yzerman.
Yzerman was captain of the Red Wings for 20 seasons (1986-2006). In that time, he led the team to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1996-97, another Stanley Cup in 2002 and a Stanley Cup Final 1995.
Yzerman knew how to lead his team to success. He was not only a point-producing machine, he was someone who could play in all situations, sacrifice his body to block shots, play through pain and say and do the right things to motivate his hockey club.
Stevie Y was a captain through and through.
Mark Messier, New York Rangers
If you are a New York Rangers fan reading this, you obviously know the curse that the Blueshirts and their fans suffered through from 1940 to 1994.
It was in 1994 that the curse was lifted off of Broadway as the Rangers won their first Stanley Cup since 1954. The team was led by their captain, Mark Messier.
There was a time in that 1994 postseason that the team was down three games to two in the Eastern Conference Finals to the New Jersey Devils. In Game 6, Messier did something that not only turned the whole series around, but also his whole legacy in New York:
Prior to Game 6, Messier guaranteed that the team would win the game to force a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. Like Joe Namath of the NFL’s New York Jets, Messier delivered by taking the team on his back and scoring a hat trick to lead the Rangers to a 4-2 victory.
The Rangers would win Game 7 and the rest was history:
Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins
Who knows what would have happened to the Pittsburgh Penguins if they never drafted "Le Magnifique" Mario Lemieux.
Lemieux was captain of the Penguins from 1987-1994, 1995-97, and from 2001-06. In that time, Lemieux led his team to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991-92, battled back from Cancer to win the scoring title in 1993 and much, much more for the franchise.
Lemieux was also instrumental in helping younger players transition to life outside the professional world. The team’s current captain, Sidney Crosby, lived with Lemieux for a few seasons as he got used to the team, the city, and the NHL atmosphere.
Lemieux also saved the franchise from bankruptcy by becoming a partial owner of the Penguins in 1998. He is currently the principal owner and chairman of the board and is the only person to ever win a Cup as both a player and as an owner, a feat he accomplished when the Penguins won the Cup in 2009.
While he is off the ice, we will always remember "Super Mario" for his unbelievable play on the ice with the Penguins.
When looking up the word "leader" in the hockey dictionary, there is no doubt that a picture of hall of famer and Montreal Canadiens’ legend Jean Beliveau.
Mr. Beliveau played his entire 21-year NHL career with the Blue Blanc et rouge, serving 10 of them as the team’s captain. In that time, Beliveau led the Canadiens to five Stanley Cups, which is the record for most Cups won by a team captain.
Beliveau also won the first ever Conn Smythe Trophy as the league’s most valuable player during the postseason back in 1965. In that post-season, Beliveau had 16 points (8 goals and 8 assists) in 13 games.
Beliveau is tied with current Anaheim Ducks’ Saku Koivu as the Canadiens’ longest-serving captain. However, in Montreal, Beliveau will always be known as the best of the best when it comes to team captains.
Honorable Mentions: Rod Brind’Amour (Carolina Hurricanes); Wayne Gretzky (Edmonton Oilers); Denis Potvin (New York Islanders); Shane Doan (Phoenix Coyotes); Trevor Linden (Vancouver Canucks)